* For a lot of us, watching the Ken Burns’ “Vietnam” series moves on multiple levels. From where we were back in the day to the brutally graphic carnage to foreign-intervention lessons still unlearned.
Two quick takeaways:
< Burns notably omits a key facet of President John Kennedy’s role in the Vietnam War, and how it escalated in the 1960s. Shortly before his assassination, he wrote a memo to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to start the troop–oops, “advisers”–withdrawal. He was inclined to go full throttle, except it would have given Barry Goldwater an “appeasement” card to play in the 1964 election. But Kennedy had definitely made the call to start getting out before it got worse.
Barely days after Kennedy’s November 1963 assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson countermanded the memo–and jumpstarted the unconscionable buildup that would result in nearly 60,000 deaths of American G.I.s.
> It was a reminder of a key character flaw that certain presidents have demonstrably shared. When things don’t go well on your watch–and it’s because of you–don’t accept responsibility. Instead, find a scapegoat. LBJ, Richard Nixon and Donald Trump all targeted the media for blame and diversion.
* In the scheme of things, it’s not all that important, but for a guy from Philly it’s still baffling and, well, perplexing. The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame just announced its nominees for the class of 2018, and once again South Philly’s Chubby Checker didn’t make it. The HoF, which has been around since 1983, has all the iconic rockers–from Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Elvis Presley to the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen. But no Chubby Checker, the literal embodiment of “The Twist,” a societal phenomenon across numerous iterations and several generations.
So this year’s nominees include the less-than-iconic likes of The Cars, the Sex Pistols and MC5. There’s even gospel guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe. But no Chubby Checker. Again. Conspiracy theorists, have at it.
Here’s mine. Voters have never forgiven Checker (Ernie Evans) for covering Hank Ballard’s (and the Midnighters) version of “The Twist,” which sounded nearly the same. Plus, “Chubby Checker” was an obvious riff on “Fats Domino.” (Mercifully, Evans didn’t become “Pudgy Parcheesi.”) OK, that’s a reach, but twisting away for fame and fortune with Ballard’s initial recording is not. And, yes, Hank Ballard is in the HoF.